The Role of Ageing in Hair Thinning

28 November, 2023

What has Ageing got to do with Hair Thinning?

As we age, various physiological changes occur in our bodies, including the gradual thinning of hair. Hair thinning is a common concern among older individuals, and understanding the role of ageing in this process is crucial for effective management. Read on as we will explore the scientific understanding of how ageing influences hair thinning, exploring research data, and various ways to manage it.

Understanding the Hair Growth Cycle

It is important to understand the process of hair growth to assess the impact of ageing on hair thinning. Hair follicles undergo a continuous process consisting of anagen (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting) phases. As we age, the duration of the anagen phase decreases, leading to shorter hair growth periods and, eventually, thinner hair strands.

The Ageing Hair Follicle

As we age, hair follicles undergo structural changes that contribute to hair thinning. These include a decrease in the size of hair follicles, a decrease in the number of active follicles, and a shift from terminal (thick) to vellus (fine) hair. Additionally, the rate of hair growth decreases, resulting in slower regrowth and an overall reduction in hair density.

Are the hormones responsible as well?

Yes. Hormonal changes can significantly affect age-related hair thinning in both men and women. Here, we will discuss the two key hormones involved-

Androgens (DHT - Dihydrotestosterone):Androgens, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), are derived from testosterone by the action of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. In men, the conversion of testosterone to DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase increases with age, leading to the miniaturization of hair follicles and a shortened hair growth cycle, resulting in thinner and finer hair.

Estrogens: These hormones have a protective effect on hair follicles. As women age, there is a decline in estrogen levels. This reduction in estrogen levels can lead to the miniaturization of hair follicles and a decrease in hair diameter. Changes in estrogen levels can also trigger a condition called telogen effluvium, leading to increased hair shedding and, in some cases, noticeable thinning.

Is it in our genes?

Genetic factors also contribute to age-related hair thinning. Male or female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a common hair loss condition primarily influenced by genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that genetic variations can affect the sensitivity of hair follicles to androgens, thereby influencing the rate and severity of hair thinning with age.

What does the research say?

Several epidemiological studies have provided insights into the prevalence and patterns of hair thinning with ageing. A study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology analyzed data from 12,940 participants and found that the prevalence of hair thinning increased significantly with age, affecting approximately 80% of individuals aged 70 and above. Another study conducted in South Korea demonstrated a higher prevalence of hair thinning in men aged 40-49 compared to younger age groups.

Okay, so how do we manage age-related Hair Thinning?

Hair thinning is a visible sign of the ageing process. There are various management and treatment options that can help you maintain thinning hair health. These options include topical medications (e.g., minoxidil), oral medications (e.g., finasteride), laser therapy, hair transplantation, and specialized products for thinning hair (e.g., volumizing shampoos, conditioners, serums, sprays etc.)

Summing Up

Age-related hair thinning is a complex process influenced by multiple factors, including changes in hair follicles, hormonal shifts, and genetic predisposition. Understanding these underlying mechanisms provides valuable insights into managing hair thinning effectively. While ageing is inevitable, you can explore various treatment options and consult your dermatologist to maintain healthy hair and address concerns related to hair thinning.


Sinclair, R. (2015). Aging hair. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, 17(2), 15-19.
Ellis, J. A., Sinclair, R. D., & Harrap, S. B. (2002). Androgenetic alopecia: pathogenesis and potential for therapy. Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine, 4(22), 1-11.
Tobin, D. J. (2016). Aging of the hair follicle pigmentation system. International Journal of Trichology, 8(2), 73-77.
van Zuuren, E. J., et al. (2016). Interventions for female pattern hair loss. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 5(5), CD007628.
Messenger, A. G., & Rundegren, J. (2004). Minoxidil: mechanisms of action on hair growth. British Journal of Dermatology, 150(2), 186-194.

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Reviewed By:Dr. Poonam Jalan

Dr. Poonam Jalan (MBBS, MD-Dermatology, Venereology & Leprosy), DNB-Dermatology & Venereology. anthi Hair Thinning Advisory Panel Member.